Saturday, December 19, 2015

Punishment and Allure - The Message of Hosea for America Now

The Book of Hosea in the Old Testament was a message of warning, judgment and call for repentance to the people of Israel 2,750 years ago. The Israelites had turned to other gods, engaged in many sins and were headed for national judgment. Eventually the kingdom of Assyria defeated and destroyed Israel and sent its people into exile. Yet Hosea also contains a message of hope and reconciliation with God.

What struck me most when I read it is that its message isn't just for Ancient Israel. It is also a message for America now - right now. 

Israel's Unfaithfulness

The Lord's first directive for the prophet Hosea was to marry a prostitute:

"When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, 'Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the Lord.'" - Hosea 1:2

God wanted Hosea's marriage to be a metaphor and example of how Israel was unfaithful to God, so he asked Hosea to marry a prostitute and have children with her. Even the names assigned to his children were a message to Israel:

  • Jezreel - "Visit the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu"
  • Lo-ruhamah - "She has not obtained compassion"
  • Lo-ammi - "Not my people"
NOTE: It's a tough job to be a prophet. Not only do they have to deliver messages that many people don't want to hear, but sometimes they are asked to do unusual and seemingly crazy things. God asked the prophet Isaiah to walk around naked and barefoot for three years as a sign against Egypt and Ethiopia, to show how their people would be shamed and led into exile by Assyria.

Be careful not to put God in a box and think He only operates along certain lines. God is far more amazing and interesting and less "religious" that people give him credit for.

Hope for Reconciliation

In spite of these hard words against the wayward people of Israel, the Lord expressed hope for a future day of reconciliation:

"Yet the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered; and in the place where it is said to them, 'You are not My people,' it will be said to them, 'You are the sons of the living God.'" - Hosea 1:10

Judgment is not God's first choice for a people. He wants relationship, harmony, righteousness and obedience. But when rebellion goes on for so long, punishment becomes the last hope for reconciliation.


Continuing with the metaphor of Israel as a harlot chasing after other gods, the Lord pronounced punishment:

"'Contend with your mother, contend, for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband; and let her put away her harlotry from her face and her adultery from between her breasts, lest I strip her naked and expose her as on the day when she was born. I will also make her like a wilderness, make her like desert land and slay her with thirst...
I will punish her for the days of the Baals, when she used to offer sacrifices to them and adorn herself with her earrings and jewelry, a
nd follow her lovers, so that she forgot Me,' declares the Lord." - Hosea 2:2-3,13

God was like a husband to Israel, a nation set apart as holy and blessed. Yet like an adulterer, the people abandoned the true God and worshiped foreign gods such as Baal. So the nation will be punished and its blessings removed.


But punishment is not the end of the matter. God's true desire is to win back the heart of Israel:

"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her. Then I will give her her vineyards from there, and the valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she will sing there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt. It will come about in that day,' declares the Lord, 'That you will call Me Ishi and will no longer call Me Baali. For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, so that they will be mentioned by their names no more.'" - Hosea 2:14-17

Ishi means "my husband," while Baali means "my master." For people to call God "Ishi" means there is relationship and intimacy. Repentance and faith in God brings reconciliation.

Problem - Sin and No Knowledge of God in the Land

The problem, the stumbling block in the land, are the people's corrupt practices, deception and lack of knowledge of God: 
"Listen to the word of the Lord, O sons of Israel, for the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, because there is no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land. There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed." - Hosea 4:1-2 

What God wants is faithfulness, kindness and people who walk with him in righteousness and truth.

Solution - Know the Lord

What must the people do? Return to the Lord! Press on to know him:

"Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, that we may live before Him. So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.
" - Hosea 6:1-3

In response, the goodness of God and his presence will pour forth like the spring rain.

Judgment Comes First

Unfortunately the hearts of the people have become so hardened that they will not respond to God's invitation without first experiencing and the shock of national judgment:

"You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice, you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your way, in your numerous warriors, therefore a tumult will arise among your people, and all your fortresses will be destroyed." - Hosea 10:13-14

Message for America Now

Like Ancient Israel, America was once a "called out" nation, but has forsaken its original calling and purpose in the Lord. The American people have turned to bloodshed at home (abortion) and abroad (endless war), sexual immorality, deep deception and theft. They are arrogant and believe America will always be great, not matter how depraved it becomes.

Most American churches do not teach the full knowledge of God. They preach prosperity and happy-clappy, feel-good messages, but fail to vigorously confront sin, lies and injustice in the land. They teach religion, but not the powerful presence of God's Spirit. They talk about baby Jesus in a manger, but not about the Jesus of Revelation who is coming back on a white horse and carrying a sword to vanquish his enemies and establish his righteous kingdom on earth.

Like Ancient Israel, God has pronounced judgment on America. The sin, injustice and lies cannot continue.

Yet God still wants to allure the American people and draw them back to himself. A great revival is coming. However, the people are hardened, so revival must come the hard way, through the shock and pain of judgment.

Like Ancient Israel, a tumult will arise among your people, and all your fortresses will be destroyed.  

America, let us return to the Lord!

No comments: